LOW rates of tree planting in England compared to ambitious targets set by Government gives an opportunity for private land owners to take advantage of grant schemes and tax incentives to increase woodland cover, says Saffery Champness.

In 2017 only 1500ha of new woodland was planted in England - following an even lower 800ha in 2016 - compared to Government targets to increase England’s wooded area by 5000ha per annum and achieve 12 per cent woodland cover by 2060.

Jane Hill, Partner, Saffery Champness, said tree planting targets would be missed by a significant margin. "This means there is real opportunity for private land owners and farmers to benefit given that the overall disposition is already favourable towards increased planting and management, and that the Forestry Commission will be looking towards new private woodlands to help in playing catch-up."

She said fires in the USA and US/Canada trade restrictions had also brought fresh bouyancy to global timber prices.

"This is coupled with new tree planting grants coming on stream, and greater scope for segmentation in the timber market whereby the best quality timber can achieve the best returns. The overall picture for timber post-Brexit, in as much as any meaningful forecast can be made, will see support targeted towards the delivery of public benefits which in the woodland and forestry sectors include carbon offsetting biodiversity, health and recreation."

She also said the tax regime for commercial woodlands remains advantageous with much activity falling outside the scope of tax, being not subject to income tax, inheritance tax exempt and with limited capital gains tax exposure coupled with some woodland sales at a beneficial 5 per cent chargeable VAT.